Pride Month: An uphill fight towards LGBTQIA+ equality in Asia?

By Mason Quah


The Philippines’ prevalence of Conversion therapy has not broken the Pride Movement

Mirroring the behaviour of Bolsonaro, Trump and other right wing populists President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed the initial risk posed by Covid-19. This stance was later reversed with a strong quarantine and social distancing program put into place.

An issue felt by LGBTQIA+ youths around the world is that the closing of schools and social spaces forces them to spend a lot more time interacting with families that may not understand or accept their gender identity or sexuality.

In the Philippines this issue is exacerbated by the extent to which conversion therapies and social pressure are accepted “cures” for LGBTQIA+ identities. Duterte famously claimed that he used to be gay before he met his current wife and “became a man again.”

This statement came in a speech in which he accused his political opponent of homosexuality.

READ MORE: Pride Month: LGBT rights battles rage in Asia under the shadow of coronavirus

Within homes there are no explicit protections for LGBT children against abuse targeting their gender or sexuality.

While broader child abuse laws can be seen to encompass this, under reporting is a serious issue and the legal authorities are often reluctant to act. Beyond childhood the strong culture of social persecution towards LGBT people is broadly responsible for the prevalence of substance abuse and mental unwellness in these communities.

There are no shortage of cases in which a person undergoes conversion therapy seemingly of their own will, but was guided towards that position by hostile conditions in their social life, workplace or home.

In opposition to the social stigmatisation and pressure against LGBTQIA+ people, and in solidarity to other marginalised groups, the pride movement in the Philippines has exploded, as each year’s pride march shattered previous records.

The record breaking 25,000 attendees of 2018 was nearly trebled in 2019 to 70,000. The 2020 parade, organised by Metro Manila Pride, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Speaking on the cancelation, the organisers said “Whether on the streets or in our homes, Pride must live on in each of us and in our solidarity within and outside the LGBTQI+ sector”.

Thailand’s Sex Workers in a tight bind as lockdown grips the industry

Thailand, while far from perfect, is in many ways a beacon of positive influence on LGBTQIA+ rights in East Asia.

There are layers of nuance that must be acknowledged here: Homosexuality may have been decriminalised in the 50s, but gay marriages are not recognised under the law.

While Thailand boasts some of the best surgical talent in gender confirmation surgery, transgender people in Thailand are not recognised in many legal contexts.

One of the greatest successes of Thailand is their efforts to fight off predatory pharmaceutical companies during the HIV pandemic, proudly achieving the best treatment statistics on the continent.

With their 90/90/90 targets currently hovering at 94/80/95 and the elimination of mother to child transmission, one of the main contributors to this success has been the lobbying and activist power of the sex worker community, many of them gay or trans, alongside a focus on citizen participation in public health.

The 1990s “100 per cent condom campaign” is widely credited with preventing the already large number of HIV cases from engulfing both the population and medical infrastructure. This was principally a grassroots movement of activists providing education and material to the sex worker and LGBTQIA+ communities with support provided by the government.

For obvious reasons, this sex worker community has been hit hard by the pandemic and the social distancing measures it requires. Sex Workers In Groups (SWING) is one organisation with a history of activism on the financial and medical protection of sex workers.

Using the existing networks and support infrastructure that provided sex workers with HIV medication and testing, they have set up social aid programs to provide daily necessities to the 145,000 sex workers under their care.

With 91 per cent now unemployed, 66 per cent unable to cover housing expenses and half ineligible for government assistance these non-governmental interventions have both saved lives and brought publicity to the issues faced by this group.

An uphill crawl or a fighting retreat? 

The fight of marginalised communities is always met with resistance, and this can be felt most strongly at times of global hardship.

In some nations progress is rapidly occurring and in others it is a slow uphill fight or even a fighting retreat. This same diversity of conflict can be seen in the West, where the job of Pride is far from finished.

Two years after formally pledging to end the practise, the UK government has yet to make any efforts towards outlawing conversion therapy.

Trump’s regulation repealing Obama-era anti-discrimination laws towards transgender people comes on the 4th anniversary of the Orlando Nightclub Shooting, which left 49 people dead.

The battle of LGBTQIA+ people to secure their human rights continues to progress worldwide, at varying speeds and intensities.

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Featured Image: Piqsels

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